Implementing blockchain technology with education keeps student data more secure
No one understands the importance of protecting one’s personal data more than today’s younger generations; Generations Y (Millennials) and Z. They’ve grown up with digital footprints, with easy internet communication creating a natural platform for self-expression. As part of this, these generations, Gen Z in particular, have greater awareness of the dangers posed by losing control over one’s own data.
In recent years, we’ve witnessed data hack after data hack bring chaos and identity theft to people of all ages, professions and geographic locations (the list of global data breaches is alarming, spanning many of the world’s corporations). For some, hacks bring up the notion, “I’ve got nothing to hide.” But that is yesterday’s mentality. Digital security is about maintaining ownership and rights, not necessarily about maintaining secrecy.
On the other side of data protection lies the issue of fraudulent information being passed off as genuine. Within education, we’ve seen the proliferation of fake degrees and diplomas, and the consequences of not being able to verify one’s own data or records. Students must be able to easily verify their credentials because that information supports their ability to find employment and develop a career.
Being able to own and verify your data is critical today. Not just because this information has become our digital life blood, but because it represents who we are as people online -- it’s our digital integrity. For Gen Z who has grown up on the internet, being digitally compromised carries a very heavy weight; you can physically exist, but if you don’t have control of your online data, it can feel like you no longer exist.
The overall impact of these issues is largely unknown. It’s extremely challenging to understand the full scope of the damage that data breaches create for people -- damage that can last years. Data security risks are not worth taking, and it’s time to do better for our youth.
For students, implementing technology with education can help change this. Though technology has provided the platform for data mismanagement through unsecure aggregation, technology can also provide a solution to the problem. Critical to the solution is that it must not rely on a potentially vulnerable third party for security.
This is where blockchain comes in. The decentralized ledger technology (DLT) relies not on human intermediaries like other software, but on a consensus-based algorithm that’s supported by decentralized computer nodes. This is important because it means that the technology removes the risk of human error security breaches. Further, blockchain technology’s security architecture layers cryptography for encryption, chain-of-custody for proof of data provenance and private keys for user verification. I’ve written about these features in more detail in recent blog posts, Blockchain 101, Blockchain Technology Puts Trust in Online Learning, Blockchain Technology is Disrupting the Global Education System and Why ODEM is Building on the Ethereum Blockchain.
Blockchain removes risk of data hacks because:
- Information is not all stored together,
- Information is individually encrypted,
- There’s no intermediary being trusted to secure the data, and
- Every computer in the network has a copy of the ledger; one computer going down does not have material consequences.
Blockchain allows ownership of educational records because:
- Data can be institutionally validated before being stored on-chain,
- The owner provides a digital signature when the record is generated,
- The digital signature is connected to a private key for verification, and
- The information can’t be manipulated or tampered with.
Recognizing these technological strengths, we’ve embraced blockchain for the improvement of ODEM’s user experience. We believe that education and employment should be universally affordable, accessible, verifiable and transferable. Blockchain technology supports all of this, removing cost, providing unlimited global access to your records, making it easy to verify authenticity and ownership and transfer one’s own records to anywhere in the world.